Posts Tagged ‘osprey


Lake District farmer’s osprey ‘disturbance’ conviction is quashed

Last August a farmer was convicted of recklessly disturbing a pair of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite, in the Lake District (see here).

Paul Barnes, 59 from Keswick, had been found guilty after a three-day trial at Workington Magistrates. The court heard how he had taken a group of children in his tractor and trailer close to the site, without a Schedule 1 disturbance licence, causing the birds to leave their nest.

Mr Barnes appealed his conviction at Carlisle Crown Court and last week his appeal was upheld and his conviction quashed.

[Paul Barnes outside Carlisle Crown Court after his conviction was quashed. Photo from Cumbria Crack]

The following write up appeared in Cumbria Crack last Friday:

A Lake District farmer convicted last year of “recklessly disturbing” an osprey nest has had his conviction quashed.

Paul Barnes vehemently denied two charges. These alleged that he had intentionally or recklessly disturbed a male and female osprey which were in a nest at Bassenthwaite on June 13 in 2017.

The charges arose after 59-year-old Mr Barnes, of Braithwaite, near Keswick, was seen to drive a tractor and a trailer containing children close to the nesting site as he conducted one of many educational visits which have become a regular part of his farming business. The two adult ospreys were said to have left their nest for around 20 minutes.

Mr Barnes was convicted on both charges after a magistrates’ court trial in August but lodged an appeal.

This began at Carlisle Crown Court earlier this year and, after two adjournments, concluded earlier today (FRI).

A judge and two magistrates ruled the case should be stopped – and Mr Barnes’ appeal upheld – after legal submissions were made during an application by his barrister, Peter Glenser QC.

Judge James Adkin – sitting with two magistrates – summed up the three main strands of Mr Glenser’s submissions.

An individual in authority told Mr Barnes to carry on farming as usual,” noted Judge Adkin.

Observations had been undertaken of (nest) disturbances not wholly dissimilar to the current circumstances – in some cases arguably worse. They are characterised as agricultural disturbances and not criminal offences.

Combined with these features there has been a lamentable failure by the prosecution to adhere to the (legal document) disclosure regime.”

As a result, the appeal panel concluded the court proceedings should halted, and Mr Barnes’ appeal against conviction was upheld.

In response, Mr Barnes – a farmer for 35 years and also a trained primary school teacher who has won national awards for conservation and children’s education – spoke “emerging from 18 months of turmoil” which had a “massive impact on family life”.

I’m pleased with the outcome; relieved. But I wasn’t totally disappointed after the trial because I knew that all the evidence hadn’t been heard,” he said.

Moving forward, Mr Barnes said he looked forward to developing a “fruitful partnership” with all groups and individuals who had a genuine osprey interest.


The Lake District Osprey Project, a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the Lake District National Park Authority, aims to ensure the continued success of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite. Since the birds returned in 2001, ospreys have raised over 30 chicks and have received over a million visitors, with an estimated value of £2 million to the Cumbrian economy.

Lake District Osprey Project website here



Job vacancies x2: Osprey Project Assistant, Birds of Poole Harbour

The charity Birds of Poole Harbour is recruiting for two (paid!) Osprey Project Assistants.


An exceptional opportunity for a keen conservationist to get experience on a landmark Osprey translocation project in Poole Harbour. The role will include husbandry and monitoring of translocated chicks pre and post release.


Birds of Poole Harbour was founded in 2013 with three key objectives in place; to educate and promote bird conservation, preservation and observation in and around the Poole Harbour area.

Ospreys, which feed exclusively on fish, historically bred across the whole of Britain and NW Europe; but populations drastically declined in the Middle Ages and became extinct in England by the mid 1800’s. The five-year project looks to restore Ospreys to their former breeding grounds in the south of England where they used to have the local nickname “Mullet Hawk”. At the same time the project will provide an important stepping stone between breeding populations in Britain and northern France, with the aim of enhancing the long-term survival of the Western European population as a whole. The project is part of a wider conservation recovery plan of Osprey in Western Europe and the Mediterranean region and is being led by Birds of Poole Harbour, Scottish charity ‘The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation’ and local Poole based-business ‘Wildlife Windows’.

Translocation has proved a highly successful means by which to restore ospreys to areas from which they have been lost. The much-admired population at Rutland Water in the East Midlands was established by a pioneering translocation project in the late 1990s and similar work has since taken place in two regions of Spain as well as in Italy, Portugal and Switzerland.

This pan-European experience means that the Poole Harbour project, which will involve licensed collection of five/six-week old chicks from healthy, sustainable populations in Scotland, has the best-possible chance of success. Once collected the chicks will be safely brought down to Poole Harbour and held in large holding pens at a confidential site for just two – three weeks to acclimatize to their new home and prepare for their first flights. Once released they will continue to be provided with fresh fish on artificial nests, to replicate normal osprey behaviour, and so are likely to remain around Poole Harbour for a further five-six weeks (the normal post-fledging period) before beginning their long migration to West Africa. During this period the birds will imprint on the area and adopt Poole as their new home.

We are now in the third year of the project and seeking to recruit committed, responsible and diligent individuals to assist in the husbandry and monitoring of the birds during their time here in Poole Harbour.

Duration: 3 months, 1st July –30th Sept 2019

Working Hours: Full-time (40 hours per week) including weekend, early morning and evening hours.

Pay: Pro-rata £17, 000

Reports to: Osprey Project Officer and Head of Science and Operations.

Closing Date: 28th February

Interviews are expected to be held the week beginning 11th March.


The Osprey Project Assistants are expected to assist with:

  • Preparation of Osprey food – cutting fish
  • Feeding of Osprey chicks
  • Monitoring chicks via CCTV
  • Monitoring of fledged chicks using detection of radio transmitter signals and optical equipment
  • Collection of data on food consumption, chick development, behaviour and location
  • Data entry as per data collected above
  • Equipment, site and resources maintenance – cleaning food preparation area, re-stocking supplies
  • Supervision of volunteers

Person Specification

Full training will be provided for this role including food preparation, feeding, behavioural monitoring via CCTV and telemetry (yagi) and data recording.

Attribute Importance
Friendly and outgoing personality Essential
Attention to detail Essential
Dedicated and proactive attitude Essential
Ability to work as a team Essential
Physically fit Essential
Accurate data entry Essential
Volunteer management Desirable
Full clean driving licence and access to own vehicle Essential
Knowledge of animal husbandry or ecology, especially avian Desirable








If you think you could excel in this role, then please email with a CV and cover letter explaining why you think you’re suitable.


Farmer guilty of recklessly disturbing Lake District ospreys

A farmer has been convicted of recklessly disturbing a pair of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite, in the Lake District, in June last year.

Paul Barnes, 58, of Brook Cottage, Keswick, was today found guilty after a three-day trial at Workington Magistrates. The court heard how he had taken a group of children in his tractor and trailer close to the site, without a Schedule 1 disturbance licence, causing the birds to leave their nest.

He was fined £300 with £2,000 costs.

[Photo of the Bassenthwaite osprey pair with their offspring in 2017, photo by The Lake District Osprey Project]

The Lake District Osprey Project, a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the Lake District National Park Authority, aims to ensure the continued success of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite. Since the birds returned in 2001, ospreys have raised over 30 chicks and delighted over a million visitors there.

Like all wild birds, ospreys are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and it is a criminal offence to harm or disturb them during the nesting period. Anyone found to have done so faces an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in jail.

There are 21 breeding pairs in England, and are worth £2million per year to the Cumbrian economy.

Annabel Rushton from the Lake District Osprey Project said: “A huge effort has been made to bring the osprey back to Cumbria and here at The Lake District Osprey Project. Local staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure the birds can nest in safety, while enabling visitors to be inspired by these wonderful birds from the designated public viewpoints at Dodd Wood and Whinlatter. Barnes acted recklessly by running his own tours which did not follow the correct protocol and resulted in the disturbance of the Bassenthwaite pair of ospreys, which could have been detrimental to their breeding success.

We would like to thank Cumbria Police for their support and diligent work in this case.”

PC Sarah Rolland of Cumbria Police said: “Laws are in place to protect all species of birds and, without these laws and their enforcement, these birds will be put at great risk. The osprey is a rare bird in the UK and therefore has a high level of legal protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A disturbance like this during the nesting period could be detrimental to their breeding success and their very existence within the UK.

In this instance, there was a clear offence of disturbing a Schedule 1 bird, whilst having young in the nest during the nesting period. This was fully investigated resulting in a charge following a CPS charging decision.

We hope that today’s result will serve to highlight the importance of adhering to these laws and serve as a warning to others that there will be consequences if the laws are ignored or willfully broken in relation to wildlife crime.”

Lake District Osprey Project website here

UPDATE 26 March 2019: Lake District farmer’s osprey ‘disturbance’ conviction is quashed (here)


Osprey ringing accident fuels malicious and hypocritical abuse

Yesterday the RSPB posted a blog about the death of an osprey chick that died when two staff members were visiting the nest to ring the chick. It’s an exceptionally rare incident and the blog is well worth a read for a bit of perspective, here.

[Photo of an osprey chick by Lewis Pate]

This unfortunate accident has been picked up by the usual game-shooting trolls on social media who are, unsurprisingly, using this story to incite the usual anti-RSPB rhetoric and cast doubt on the professionalism of the ringers, including calls for them to be prosecuted! One of the main instigators is Bert Burnett of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who crassly headlined with this sensationalist nonsense:


and went on to say:

Careless behaviour by ordinary members of the public connected to wild birds can and does result in prosecutions, will those responsible for this birds tragic death feel the weight of the law?“.

By ‘careless behaviour’ he’s presumably referring to the deliberate and pre-meditated actions of gamekeepers who have been caught illegally poisoning, shooting and trapping protected raptor species year after year after year, crimes which of course should lead to a prosecution. That’s clearly quite different from the circumstances of this osprey chick’s death.

Inevitably, the trolls’ faux outrage has quickly moved on to the malicious abuse of anyone involved in raptor tagging projects and includes calls for the satellite tagging of raptors to be halted on ‘welfare grounds’, despite an extensive review published last year that showed there are currently zero grounds for concern.

What happened to this osprey chick was an accident. A tragic, horrible accident. Mistakes can happen, and, as the RSPB blog states, there will be a review of the circumstances and all recommendations taken on board to ensure the chance of this happening again is minimised.

The ringing team will be devastated. These are qualified, highly skilled and experienced bird ringers, operating under a hard won licence, motivated by the opportunity to contribute towards osprey research and conservation. That an osprey chick died whilst in their care will probably haunt them for a considerable number of years.

The vitriolic response from the game shooting trolls is entirely predictable. They don’t like the idea of raptors being fitted with any sort of marker, and especially not satellite tags, because they know that the data being generated by those tags are all pointing, overwhelmingly, towards the illegal killing of raptors on grouse moors, despite the shooting industry’s best efforts to hide these crimes. Any opportunity they get to try and discredit the RSPB and raptor workers, they’ll take it, as we’ve seen today.

Oh, and let’s not forget, some of these trolls were actually begging to be allowed to ring raptors in the Cairngorms National Park not so long ago, presumably with the idea of taking control of the data and hiding it from public view (hiding stuff seems to be one of their special skills – we’re still waiting to hear what happened to the dead red kite found on an Angus Glens grouse moor back in February). Their hypocrisy is staggering.

Before the trolls hyperventilate from their latest bout of frothing hysteria, they might want to take a breath and read about another incident where a species of high conservation concern died as a result of an unfortunate miscalculation by an expert ringing team, this time employed by the trolls’ comrades at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

We weren’t going to blog about this because, having read the associated reports and documents, it’s quite clear that, like the osprey incident, the outcome was unintentional, but given the abuse currently being thrown at the RSPB ringers and anyone else associated with tagging raptors, this other incident demonstrates that, sometimes, things can go wrong, mistakes can be made, and lessons will be learned.

The case in point relates to a study of Capercaillie in the Scottish Highlands. Last year, staff from the GWCT fitted necklace radio tags to a number of Capercaillie, which resulted in the deaths of at least two male birds (a third bird has not been found). The necklace loops were the wrong size (way too large) and one bird got its leg caught in the neck loop and the other bird got its mandible caught.

Should we be calling for the prosecution of the GWCT ringing team? Should their licences be revoked? No, absolutely not. According to the reports we’ve read, the GWCT team quickly recognised their error and caught up the remaining tagged males and removed their neck tags. The incident was reported to the licensing authorities (SNH and BTO) who both conducted a thorough review and found that the ringing team had operated within the terms of the licences. The GWCT ringers didn’t deliberately set out to kill these birds, just as the RSPB ringers didn’t deliberately set out to kill the osprey chick. The Capercaillie died as a result of a miscalculation, nothing more, nothing less. Lessons have been learned, and as a result permission for anyone to fit tags to the necks of male Capercaillie has now been withdrawn (no such issues have been identified for female Capercaillie and special licences are still available for experts wishing to tag the females).

What was interesting about the Capercaillie incident wasn’t the actions of the ringing team, but the actions of the GWCT’s project management team. SNH raised serious concerns about this and as a result has now pulled out of this particular partnership. This news is of particular interest to those of us currently challenging SNH’s raven cull licence, as GWCT is heavily involved with the planning, data analysis and reporting of that ‘study’.

For those who will undoubtedly accuse us of peddling fake news, here are some excerpts from the SNH report:

What interests us about the Capercaillie tagging incident is the complete lack of publicity about these deaths, which occurred almost a year ago. This is a red listed species of high conservation concern, and yet we’ve only been able to find out about these deaths after several months of submitting FoI requests to various authorities.

Contrast the GWCT’s public silence with the RSPB’s response to the osprey death – a blog was published within a week of it happening.

But that particular point wasn’t our intended focus of this particular blog. Our point is that mistakes can be made, those fieldworkers involved will be inconsolable (whether they work for the RSPB, GWCT or anyone else), and none of them deserve to be on the receiving end of such caustic and malicious abuse, especially from those who work in an industry that doesn’t think twice about routinely and deliberately causing pain and suffering to wildlife, legally and illegally, in the name of a so-called ‘sport’.


Jason North convicted for disturbance & egg theft from raptor nests

RSPB press release (3 May 2018):


An egg collector, who was previously unknown to police, has pleaded guilty to taking osprey eggs and disturbing rare breeding birds in Devon and Scotland.

Today (3 May 2018), Jason North, 49, from Plymouth appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to nine charges relating to the taking of osprey eggs from Highland Scotland, and the disturbance of golden eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon and little-ringed plover during 2016.

He received a 6-week jail sentence on each charge suspended for one year and a fine of £665 for taking the osprey eggs. He was also put in a 10-week curfew to ensure he remains at home between 9pm-6am. Maps, books and equipment were also confiscated.

The four species involved are all rare breeding birds listed on Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Offences against these birds can result in up to six months in prison and/or an unlimited fine per offence.

[Jason North leaving court yesterday, photo by Penny Cross]

In December 2016, Devon and Cornwall Police, assisted by RSPB and NWCU officers, searched the home of Mr North at Haddington Road, Plymouth. They seized a number of items including hand-written notes, diaries and a computer. Following forensic examination of the computer, hundreds of digital images and video clips were recovered showing eggs and nests. The evidence indicated that North had been routinely making unlicensed visits, over a number of years, to the nests of rare breeding birds in Devon and Scotland. There were also images of eggs which had been removed from nests and put into display cases. The location of these eggs remains unknown.

A detailed investigation by Wildlife Crime Officer (WCO) PC Joshua Marshall, supported by RSPB and others, located several of the nest sites shown in the images. Evidence from people monitoring those sites, supported by expert evidence, confirmed that eggs had undoubtedly been taken in some cases. All the evidence clearly indicated that North, in addition to making unlicensed visits to take photographs, was also involved in taking eggs and it is believed these were then added to a collection.

PC Joshua Marshall of Devon and Cornwall Police said:

North was unknown prior to this investigation and only brought to account for his illegal activities via a number of diligent members of the public reporting to police confidentially. The public have such an important role to play in bringing wildlife criminals like this to justice. Please be vigilant while out in the countryside and report any suspicious behaviour, especially around nest sites, to the police on 101.

It also serves as a warning to potential or active offenders that you stand a high risk of being brought to account for any illegal activity you commit in respect to wild birds.

I would like to thank all those involved with the investigation including CPS, the expert witnesses and RSPB Investigations Officer Guy Shorrock.”

Jenny Shelton from the RSPB’s Investigations unit added: “These days, thankfully, egg collecting is by and large a thing of the past. However, there are still some active collectors targeting our rarest birds, and it is particularly worrying when new egg collectors come to light showing that the everyone needs to remain vigilant. We are grateful for the fantastic work by Devon and Cornwall Police plus the support from the CPS, NWCU and numerous people involved in monitoring and protecting these nest sites.

It’s hard to understand why someone would prefer to take the eggs of these incredible birds rather than see the birds flourishing in the wild.”

If you notice any suspicious behaviour around birds’ nests or breeding sites, including people looking in bushes or wading out to islands, often at unsociable hours, please call police on 101 and RSPB Investigations on 01767 680551.


UPDATE 9 May 2018: A good blog about this case from the RSPB’s Investigations Team (here)


Man charged with stealing eagle & osprey eggs from nests

From DevonLive news, 6 April 2018:

A man has been charged with a number of offences against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, in relation to the taking of and disturbing of protected birds, their nests and eggs.

Jason North, aged 49, from Plymouth has been charged with 14 offences including the disturbance of Schedule 1 birds at or near the nest and the taking of eggs.

These include rare species such as Golden Eagle and Osprey in Scotland.

Further offences relate to nest disturbance and the taking of eggs of rare Devon birds namely Hobby, Peregrine Falcon and Little-Ringed Plover from sites on Dartmoor, Devon.

These offences are alleged to have taken place in Devon and Scotland during 2016.

Mr North is due before Plymouth Magistrates court on 3 May.


Thanks to Police Wildlife Crime Officer Josh Marshall from Devon & Cornwall Police for alerting us to this case. Great partnership working between the Police, RSPB & CPS to get this case to court.


Peak District National Park Authority responds to RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report

The Peak District National Park Authority has issued a statement in reponse to the publication of the RSPB’s 2016 Birdcrime report.

Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: “Killing birds of prey is illegal. I am appalled by the persecution of any protected species, no matter what the circumstances.

The RSPB’s latest Birdcrime report brings the plight of birds of prey to the fore. It shows what we are up against in trying to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey. I welcome the recent acknowledgement from shooting organisations that the killing of raptors to protect game birds is part of the problem. It is – and it is damaging to their interests. I welcome and wholeheartedly support their condemnation of such activity.

Being able to watch birds of prey in the Peak District National Park should be part of everyone’s experience.

We have been working with landowners, gamekeepers and partners since 2011 to remedy the situation locally but it is clear from the results that much more needs to be done.

This year peregrines have failed to breed in the Dark Peak for the first time since they recolonised in 1984 and persecution of these incredible birds has been a factor in this. This has to change.

It is incredibly difficult to catch someone in the act or to collect evidence and make a case for prosecution. I appeal to all users of the countryside to help us bring persecution to an end by reporting anything you feel is suspicious to the police. The best hope we have is for law-abiding people within the game bird industry calling out those who operate outside the law.

The Peak District Birds of Prey Initiative will shortly be publishing a report documenting the fortunes of key birds of prey alongside confirmed or suspected incidents of persecution in the moorland areas of the Peak District during 2016 and 2017. On the back of this report, I will look for a renewed commitment from moorland owners and managers in the Peak District to work with us to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey – and a strengthening of this commitment. We cannot achieve this on our own.”

Anyone with information to report about wildlife crime should contact Derbyshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


Photo of an osprey found in the Peak District National Park in September 2015. It had two broken legs and succumbed to these injuries soon after being found. The post-mortem stated its injuries were consistent with being caught in a spring trap (Photo by RSPB)

It’s good to see strong condemnation of continued illegal raptor persecution from the Peak District National Park Authority, although, coming a week after the publication of the Birdcrime report it does have a whiff of ‘Oh God, everyone else has commented, we’d better say something too’. Nevertheless, better late than never.

We also appreciate Sarah Fowler’s acknowledgement that the 7-year-long Peak District Bird of Prey Initiative has been a complete and utter failure. She didn’t actually say that – she said, “It is clear from the results that much more needs to be done“, and, with the imminent publication of the Initiative’s 2016 and 2017 annual reports, she said “I will look for a renewed commitment from moorland owners and managers in the Peak District to work with us to reverse the fortunes of birds of prey – and a strengthening of this commitment“.

Hang on. Wasn’t ‘renewed commitment’ from project partners promised in 2015 when the Initiative’s five-year targets had all failed to be met? Ah yes, so it was. And yet, despite that ‘renewed commitment’ we’ve seen continued evidence of illegal raptor persecution within the National Park and now we learn that “This year peregrines have failed to breed in the Dark Peak for the first time since they recolonised in 1984 and persecution of these incredible birds has been a factor in this“.

We don’t want ‘renewed commitment’ from so-called project partners. It’s meaningless bollocks that nobody believes anymore. We’re sick of hearing it and sick of statutory agencies using it to pretend that everything’s going to be ok.

The Peak District National Park Authority needs to start calling out these grouse moor owners, managers and agents, by name, instead of shielding them and their criminal activities within this charade of partnership-working.

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